by Elinor Crosby, Head Editor, INALJ Nova Scotia
previously published 6/10/13
So You Have Blue Hair
Or maybe you have fully tattooed arms, or a labret or septum piercing or stretched ears. Can you still get a job looking the way that you prefer to look? I feel that the answer is a resounding yes. Is your alternative style going to be more acceptable at an urban public library than a rural one? Also likely yes. This is for all my fellow “alternative looking” librarians out there who are on the job hunt.
In my entire adult life, I have only been unemployed for 10 months. When you consider that that has been nearly 22 years of adulthood, it’s actually not a lot of time to be jobless, though it did seem it when I was going through it. My rise to my current level of education and skill has been a difficult road, but I’m happy to say that throughout my journey I have been true to my personality. The librarian who convinced me to go and do my MLIS insisted that librarians didn’t care what you looked like as long as you could do the job, and I have found this to be true.
What this means is that when I go to a job interview, I dress appropriately for the position, but leave my blue hair and piercings be. If I know a certain workplace’s dress code is more restrictive, I will ask questions about it at the end of the interview and indicate that I am aware of the workplace culture and the patrons they serve. At this time I also reinforce that I will comply with the stated dress code to the best of my ability, and that I’m willing and able to change a few things about my appearance in order to fit in. However, I also take this opportunity to explain that this is how I’ve looked for twenty years, and that it’s definitely how I’m most comfortable. I have been told that this approach is very refreshing, and that the people who have hired me appreciate my candor.
Upside? I have been employed steadily for the last 18 years in a province that is economically depressed. I have occasionally been underemployed or over employed, but that’s due to have several part-time jobs. Downside? I have probably lost out on some jobs because of the way that I look. My rationalization? I probably don’t want to work for an employer that can’t see past outward appearances to see the stellar employee that is sitting in front of them. This is how I screen where I actually want to work.
I’m currently in a part-time position at an urban public library, and I love it! I walked in to my interview wearing slacks, a button-down shirt, a blazer, and my bright metallic pink Doc Martens. My outfit showed that I was taking this interview seriously, but I allowed my personality to shine through with my accessories. I find when I am comfortable with what I am wearing I am more comfortable in my interview, which can only be a good thing for everyone involved.
Being an adult means that sometimes you have to make compromises if you want a certain job, but being an adult also means being comfortable enough in your own skin to show up to an interview looking the way you prefer to look. The willingness to compromise is often a better indication of your temperament than attempting to look normal for an interview, and feeling completely uncomfortable.